Watertown Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald asked for a bigger budget, and she got what she asked for. Now school officials and parents will have to wait to see if they get the funding.
Last week Fitzgerald said the schools need $46 million in Fiscal 2015 to provide the type of education that school officials believe Watertown’s children need. That would require a $42 million appropriation from the town. The amount is $6 million and 16 percent higher than Fiscal 2014 (the current year).
Monday night the School Committee heard from an overflow audience of parents and school staff in the Council Chamber in Town Hall. Parents, many of whom are part of the recently formed school advocacy group Watertown Strong Schools, asked for full funding of the Superintendent’s request.
The Committee voted 6-0 to approve the budget, with Town Council President Mark Sideris voting present because he wants to consider the entire town budget before weighing in on the school budget.
The school budget is now in the hands of Town Manager Michael Driscoll, who will make a recommendation to the Town Council. The Council ultimately approves the entire town budget, including the school budget. The budget will be presented to the Town Council on April 22.
On Monday, School Committee member John Portz repeated his concern that the school request is not politically realistic. In the fall, Driscoll said the entire increase for the all municipal and school departments would be $4 million. Portz said he wants to see a big increase for the schools and suggested phasing in the increase over a number of years.
Other School Committee members said they believe now is the time to make a major investment in the schools.